On 13th February this year’s Lent season started at the Ecumenical Centre with a worship of a special liturgy led by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. Instead of taking the usual bread and wine for the Holy Communion, bananas and coconut water were offered.
I remember the first time when I had to take the Communion with red wine. It was in the first year of my theological studies, as I was sent to a congregation where it was the natural practice to use red wine. It felt strange, unusual, weird as at my home congregation we would have never used anything else than white wine. White bread, white wine – that was Communion for me. Red wine? No, that’s for parties.
Then came the time when I was doing my practical year in a congregation of Debrecen, where you could choose whether you wished to take wine or grape juice. Some people who once had been addicted to alcohol and got cured, took the grape juice. Well, that one reminded me of children’s parties and hospitals.
At the opening service of the GIT 2012 in Indonesia, traditional Indonesian sticky rice and tempeh together with herbal drink were served. So far from my own context, it felt holy.
I also remember my class of missiology where we talked about different cultures, contexts inside Christianity where bread and wine would not be the main source of food thus might not be the most appropriate conveyors of the body and blood of Christ that was broken and shed for us. Alternatively, one could use tortillas, taking the Latin-American reality. Sounds logical. If bread and wine are alien to a culture, how could they connect to Christ’s death and resurrection that nourish us in such a complex way as the most basic foods do? I agree, contextualisation in this matter is important.
However, are bread and wine our basic nourishments in the Western world? Bread I would say yes, but wine? If you say wine is your daily basic liquid intake, you would be referred to Alcoholics Anonymous. Does it mean that we Westerners have forgotten recently to contextualise the liquid part of the Holy Supper? How would it feel drinking water or herbal tea from the chalice?
As Lent directs our attention from physical food and body to spiritual nourishment and soul, I wonder what is the importance of bread, banana, sticky rice, tempeh, red wine, white wine, grape juice, coconut water or herbal drink in the Communion? I leave that question open. While wishing a spiritually fulfilling, uplifting, sanctifying Lent season for all of us Christians.